Documenting Progress Using the Functional Scheme

Cover of Functional Scheme
Cover of Functional Scheme

The Functional Scheme is the tool developed by Dr. Lilli Nielsen that helps to determine developmental skills level. We recommend that the student’s Functional Scheme be updated at least annually.  You may want to review this video from Patty Obrzut about the Functional Scheme if you are not familiar with how to use it. After the initial assessment, the columns for “Learning has begun”, “Performed in favorable conditions”, and Performs spontaneously” provide important information about a student’s progress in attaining skills. The team may want to review the Functional Scheme more frequently, especially if they see new skills emerging or notice regression. 

It is also important to be consistent in the way the Functional Scheme is scored. (See Some Tips on Completing the Functional Scheme.)This may be challenging when new individuals attempt to update the information.  Use this as a guide:

    • Only mark “Yes” if the student is demonstrating the skill without support or prompting. 
    • If the student demonstrates the skill some of the time but still without a lot of prompting, mark it as “Learning has begun.”
    • If the student can only demonstrate the skill with prompts in only a few environments with perhaps only a single person, this would be marked “Performed in favorable conditions”.
    • “Performs spontaneously” is very much like “Yes” only a little more so.  Lilli would say that this skill has become “part of the personality” of the student.  They can do this skill without any apparent effort or without being given instruction; they just do it.
    •  “Was able to” refers to skills that were present a one time and now have disappeared.  It is recommended not to use this column when marking the Functional Scheme the first time you use it.  However, “was able to” can help document the loss of skills which can be very important. It may also be an indication that certain reflexive skills have appropriately disappeared due to maturation and higher level skill development.
    • “Don’t Know” can be used when there are functions you can’t observe and information can’t be obtained from another source like the parents or therapist.  For example, “Can call for the parents by crying, also when nothing is wrong”.

We also encourage that the educational team work in pairs to score the Functional Scheme and that the entire team review the results and reach agreement on the scores. The parents or primary caregivers are key to this process. They know the child best and are likely to be the only individuals consistently in the learner’s life as he or she progresses through school.